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The Turakian Age is Seriously Underrated

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The entire Beralka-Shaanda-Mhorec water system appears in function comparable to the Mediterranean Sea, in that its facilitation of travel and trade has created a vast economically and culturally integrated region. It also strongly reminds me of the Nyr Dyv in the world of Greyhawk, albeit both inland seas are much larger.

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The rivers of Arduna may at times be less-than-obvious, but at least they're better than on the map of Creation, the setting for Exalted.  There's a major river that connects the White Sea in the north, with an apparent terminal estuary, to a river system in the East, at a sharp angle that looks like it should be a tributary joining the larger system. Visually, it has two terminals and no headwater. One of the writers I worked with finally defined it as actually being a canal, not a natural river, with powerful magic enabling it to flow uphill out of the White Sea (and with more magic to desalinate it).

 

Now, Creation is a deeply non-naturalistic world (it's flat, for one thing), with a history of both powerful magic and huge-scale engineering projects, but personally I find this a little too much. Especially since it took about eight years for somebody to try accounting for this awkward bit of geography.

 

Dean Shomshak

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EDIT FOR DOUBLE-POST ANNOYANCE: Incidentally, as I look at that tangle of rivers I wonder if some of them are actually roads. The region does seem to have a lot of "rivers" flowing through mountain ranges, not just the Shaanda, and that aren't clearly labeled. But I haven't red the descriptions for the eastern Westerlands yet.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Heh, yeah, I noticed much the same thing on the map for the Talislanta setting. The Inland Sea, in the Quan Empire, has three outflows to the ocean around the continent... but no inflows shown. Years after the setting was first published, a book in the Cyclopedia Talislanta series focused on the Quan Empire finally offered the explanation that the Inland Sea was fed by underground springs.

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15 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

Those rules suggest that Beralka has two outflows, one via the Shaanda River to Mhorec, the other the Ordring River, which merges with the Tarnwater and later the River Loskell, before finally emptying into the Sea of Storms. OTOH the Sea of Mhorec appears to drain only via the Larnaca River, into the Gulf of Velkara and thence the Khelvarian Ocean.

I've always assumed that the Ordring flows into Beralka.  I'm not saying you're wrong, but is there anywhere in the text that makes this clear?  The Ordring leaves Lake Beralka, but never makes it to the Sea of Storms, because it is a tributary to the Bernina.  So the river flows west from the Nagyrian Mountains, past the Ettinstone (p 71), and continuing west where it is now navigable to many vessels, to join with the Bernina coming out of the Thurisian Mountains, which then flows south to the sea.  Which seems to imply that these many vessels have to stop at the Ettinstone, and can't proceed any further toward Lake Beralka.

 

The way I read it is that vessels can sail east from the Ettinstone and all the way into Lake Beralka.  That the river flowing out of the Thurisian Mountains is the Ordring,not the Bernina.

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3 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

Heh, yeah, I noticed much the same thing on the map for the Talislanta setting. The Inland Sea, in the Quan Empire, has three outflows to the ocean around the continent... but no inflows shown. Years after the setting was first published, a book in the Cyclopedia Talislanta series focused on the Quan Empire finally offered the explanation that the Inland Sea was fed by underground springs.

 

I do something similar in my new D&D setting. The two arms of the Grand Canal begin at an upland lake called the Middlefonse and run north and south to the Inner and Outer Oceans. (and the north arm tunnels through a mountain range on the way.) The Middlefonse receives some small streams from nearby mountain ranges, but the Analecta Arcana say its chief source is a decanter of endless water someone lost very long ago. And only a scoundrel would question the accuracy of the Analecta Arcana, despite its being a compilation of quotes from older sources (now mostly lost) and repeatedly edited and glossed by diverse hands.

 

Dean Shomshak

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3 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

I've always assumed that the Ordring flows into Beralka.  I'm not saying you're wrong, but is there anywhere in the text that makes this clear?  The Ordring leaves Lake Beralka, but never makes it to the Sea of Storms, because it is a tributary to the Bernina.  So the river flows west from the Nagyrian Mountains, past the Ettinstone (p 71), and continuing west where it is now navigable to many vessels, to join with the Bernina coming out of the Thurisian Mountains, which then flows south to the sea.  Which seems to imply that these many vessels have to stop at the Ettinstone, and can't proceed any further toward Lake Beralka.

 

The way I read it is that vessels can sail east from the Ettinstone and all the way into Lake Beralka.  That the river flowing out of the Thurisian Mountains is the Ordring,not the Bernina.

 

Thank you for asking about this and prompting me to re-examine the evidence, because I now believe you're right. :)  TA p. 67 states that the city of Banska-Morav, on the Beralkan coast of the kingdom of Szarvasia, occupies several islands in "the Ordring Delta." Deltas form at the mouths of rivers, so the Ordring River must flow into Lake Beralka.

 

Hence your outline of the Ordring's course is the most logical: headwaters in the Thurisian Mountains, flows east while branching off into the Bernina and Loskell rivers, absorbs the Tarnwater south of the Nagyrian Mountains, turns north and empties into Lake Beralka; leaving the Shaanda River as the lake's only major drainage. But IMHO it would make the most sense for merchant boats to be able to sail the Loskell and Ordring Rivers all the way between Aarn and Lake Beralka. While the description of Aarn's landscape downplays trade to and from the lake, Aarn and the rivers are the only water access between Beralka and the Sea of Storms/southern coast of Arduna, which has to be economically important. Between that, Aarn's proximity to the High Pass to Tornathia, and it being the only deep-water port between Bellinberg and Tatha Gorel, there would be enough mercantile traffic and stimulus for it to grow to be the largest city in the world.

 

BTW I always wondered why no city had grown up around the Ettinstone. My personal explanation is that the site is sacred to the Druids, like other notable natural formations. If it's so big that it actually blocks water traffic, I would just move it to where the Ordring branches into the Bernina.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

But IMHO it would make the most sense for merchant boats to be able to sail the Loskell and Ordring Rivers all the way between Aarn and Lake Beralka.

That would make sense, and the implication of the text then means that these boats can't sail west from the Ettinstone, upriver on the Ordring from that point (except possibly for much smaller boats).

 

The next question is, what causes the Ordring to become wider and deeper from that point, given that a narrower, shallower river is splitting into two?   A small river does not split into two big rivers.  The simplest answer is that there are additional tributary streams coming down from the Nagyrian Mountains.  These are not navigable and are too small to bother showing on the map.  Perhaps they might even form a small lake around (or near) the Ettinstone.  This lake is filled with rocks, so that ships must sail along a particular path around the west side of the Ettinstone to avoid the rocks.  This might also explain why there's no city there.  The terrain is too rough near the Ettinstone, and the area where you could build a city is inconveniently far from the path the trade ships would have to sail.

 

Considering the proximity of the Nagyrian Mountains, the tributaries could be steeply-flowing rapids, possibly complete with waterfalls, which would prevent a city from being built on the north side of the river as well.  And maybe there's a cliff or a very steep bank on the west side of the Loskell, meaning that there'd be no place for ships to dock.  And the bank/cliff wouldn't even have to be that high to make it sufficiently inconvenient.

 

So no city around the Ettinstone because:

High cliff on the west side,

Rock-filled lake on the south-east side, and

Rapids coming in from the mountains on the north side.

But enough room to sail around the Ettinstone, against the current coming up the Loskell/Ordring, carefully avoiding crashing into the stone, and then with the current down the Ordring/Loskell.  Seems like a tricky maneuver for the sailors, but certainly one they can learn to do.

 

Adventure plot idea:  Some entrepreneurial wizards from Aarn want to build a city on the southwest side of the Ettinstone, and create some magical means of allowing ships to dock there.  Maybe they think they can magically carve out a harbor there, or let the ships drop anchor and load and unload cargo and passengers via permanent levitation magic placed in the area.  Business opportunities abound - if you could make such a system work.  The Verlichteners might see this as a way to gain power and eventually independence from Thurgandia.  And Thurgandia might also have opinions on the matter.

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Fine and sensible reasoning, Phil. :thumbup:

 

11 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

Adventure plot idea:  Some entrepreneurial wizards from Aarn want to build a city on the southwest side of the Ettinstone, and create some magical means of allowing ships to dock there.  Maybe they think they can magically carve out a harbor there, or let the ships drop anchor and load and unload cargo and passengers via permanent levitation magic placed in the area.  Business opportunities abound - if you could make such a system work.  The Verlichteners might see this as a way to gain power and eventually independence from Thurgandia.  And Thurgandia might also have opinions on the matter.

 

And perhaps Aarn as well, given that this proposed city would be trying to cut into their trade. Although to be honest, it probably wouldn't be much competition for Aarn. Verlichtenheim (which the Encyclopaedia Turakiana declares a city, even though it's shown as a castle on the map) and Sollare are the only settlements on the Ordring which might benefit from a diversion of trade. Aarn's market will always be much bigger.

 

It would require less magic for the Verlichteners to just build a canal around the Ettinstone and its attendant obstacles, to facilitate traveling further up the Ordring. An actual city might not be necessary or desirable -- at most a town to maintain the canal and provision the sailors.

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On 1/16/2020 at 1:16 PM, DShomshak said:

EDIT FOR DOUBLE-POST ANNOYANCE: Incidentally, as I look at that tangle of rivers I wonder if some of them are actually roads. The region does seem to have a lot of "rivers" flowing through mountain ranges, not just the Shaanda, and that aren't clearly labeled. But I haven't red the descriptions for the eastern Westerlands yet.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

AFAICT there are no roads on the maps of Ambrethel -- all those labeled lines are rivers. And while many of them start in mountain ranges, and the ranges often have rivers that start on either side, I've yet to find one that passes completely through a mountain range. The Shaanda River doesn't; it follows the long valley bounded by the Drakine Mountains and Valician Hills, which are separate geologic features.

 

But as Steve Long pointed out in his text from the Fantasy Hero genre book(s), for most civilizations during their history, rivers are roads. They provide quicker, easier, and (relatively) safer transportation, and very often formed the unifying factor between communities. They also make for an easily-defined border between political entities, and that frequently applies to Ambrethel.

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Roads often also get made along the sides of rivers.  Perhaps not nicely paved roads, but worn paths and trails.  Those traveling without a water craft, will often follow rivers as well.

 

There are two roads shown on the map of Aarn on page 57, one going north and the other going southeast.  But if you look at the larger map on page 60, you'll see that there are no apparent destinations for these roads.  Presumably, they are there for the farmers in the countryside around Aarn to bring their goods to the city.  Which means that these roads likely end at the first reasonably-sized farming village they meet - and then become mere dirt paths beyond that.

 

In general, roads would be built between cities in the same nation (if at all).  Let's take Vestria as the first example from the first map on page 50.  If Vestria wished to invest in roads (they do cost money and labor to build), they would likely build them between cities that are not already connected by water.  So perhaps between Daravel and Ashburn.  Or between Daravel and Greyspan - or perhaps better, from Daravel south to the bend in the Greyspark River.  From there, a traveler can go downriver to Odellia or upriver to Greyspan.  Considering the political situation in Vestria, it is unlikely that there are roads connecting Colgrave, Toreth, and Skeld to the rest of the kingdom.  Although there could be a road from Ashburn to Brecon - or for less building cost, from Brecon to the bend of the Silverrock River, just north of the Enchanted Forest of Danaflor.  This makes for easy access among Brecon, Ashburn, and Teriadoc.  We aren't given much info about the Enchanted Forest, so I'm assuming that such a road's proximity won't cause too great a hazard.  If the forest is a problem, then the road would need to cut a wide berth around it.

 

Cities are shown in TTA that, like Brecon, are not along any river or coast.  On the same map, we see cities of Athring and Forgald in the Mhendarian Palatinate, and Ytheis in Umbr.  Presumably, these cities have their own sources of fresh water - wells, springs, or even a lake or pond too small to include on the map.  Because of these cities' isolation, they would be likely to have roads to another city within the same nation.  And also for other isolated locations, like Blackfairn and Gwinden Abbeys.  Not that these "roads" would need to be anything other than worn tracks through the grass.

 

Roads are often built to allow a large kingdom to maintain control over its various regions - roads make it easier to send soldiers to put down the rebellion in a distant province.  Roads are less likely to be built from one kingdom to another - unless they really, really trust each other, and have a mutually beneficial trading arrangement.

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There are certainly roads one can assume exist, even if they're not noted as such on the map.

 

The only reference to a specific road I can remember in the source book is between Zhor Cacimar in the Vornakkian Peninsula, and its port city of Ulugysha. (reference p. 120, and map p. 106)

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Speaking of the Vornakkian Peninsula, one of my additions to the setting was the invention of a new city-state on the coast of the Peninsula between Sargyl's Maze and the Living Statues. Per my original history, Sargyllium was founded by the legendary pirate Sargyl. Noting the lack of a dedicated large port providing access from the rest of Arduna to the rich Vornakkian cities of Eltirian, Halathaloorm, and Kurum-Sathiri, Sargyl saw an opportunity to establish himself as the middleman for traders to and from those states. He and other pirate captains he recruited seized a large coastal town with a natural deep-water harbor, and with his new slave laborers and Dwarven engineers hired with pirate gold, built on the site a stoutly-fortified city with first-rate harborage. Sargyl's fleet soon brought the remaining settlements on its strip of coast under his sway, and made certain that merchants landing there were funneled to Sargyllium to do business. Sargyl and his successors took the title of Prince, since Sargyl claimed to have been a nyasar of Khirkovy driven from his land by a usurping rival.

 

In succeeding centuries Sargyllium has prospered, growing well beyond its initial defensive wall, and building the strongest fleet on the Peninsula. Two other factors have helped the city-state thrive. The Princes of Sargyllium inherited Sargyl's charts of the labyrinthine Maze of islands that bears his name, allowing his ships to successfully pursue the pirates who continue to hide among them. Those pirate captains have learned it's healthier to refrain from attacking ships bearing Sargyllium's flag. The rulers of the city-state have also secretly made pact with the dreaded Sharthak (shark-men) who frequent the Vornakkian Gulf, bribing them with much treasure not only to leave Sargyllium's merchant vessels (mostly) unmolested, but to attack vessels of competitors from other states. (Were this arrangement to become known to the wider world, the consequences for Sargyllium would be severe.)

 

Sargyllium's society reflects its piratical heritage. Its noble class is descended from Sargyl and the captains who followed him, who control all commerce in the city-state and take a "cut" of all transactions (minus the Prince's share). All nobles have their own private mercenary guard and armed vessels; the Prince is typically the noble with the most wealth and the strongest following, but all of the nobility constantly scheme to supplant him, as well as each other. Sargyllian society is almost openly corrupt. Bribery, blackmail, extortion, and assassination are common from lowest to highest level, and ruling dynasties rarely last past the second generation. However, the Prince and nobles are careful never to let their rivalries and racketeering become so open, extreme, or violent as to affect the flow of business.

 

The Sargyllians follow no particular religion, but the High Church, Hargeshism, and the Eltiriani pantheon are the most widespread faiths, accounting for most of the populace. Due to the importance of trade to their state, the gods of wealth from each of the three religions are particularly venerated. Many Sargyllians propitiate all three in hope of reward, referring to them as, "the Golden Trinity." Among the nobility, the cult of the Sharthak god Shatharak has a secret but significant following. Many Sargyllian nobles appreciate the Great Devourer's ruthless, predatory nature, and even practice human sacrifice to gain his favor.

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Stepping away for a bit from that whole Shaanda River kick I've been on lately :rolleyes: , I wanted to address Nolgroth's concerns about finding interesting character "hooks" in the standard fantasy-game races included in Ambrethel. We've touched on a few of the more distinctive elements of their TA versions already on this thread, but for the moment I'd like to focus on the Dwarves. While they do conform to many of the D&D-isms we're all familiar with, there are a number of distinctive elements spelled out in the source book, with further implications, which could be woven into character backgrounds and plot lines.

 

Of all the non-humans in Ambrethel, the Dwarves may be the most numerous and widespread. Twenty named kingdoms of Dwarves are scattered across both continents. They frequently engage in trade with the realms of Men, or are hired by them for special construction projects, and in some cases have even closer relations. For example, the Dwarves of Blinndighaime, in the Snowthorn Mountains, made for Tassar (king) Borvyg of Khirkovy, his favorite weapon, the war-hammer Sitenka ("victory") (TA p 63). Those from Deepingdelve have been contracted to strengthen the defenses of the Mezendrian city of Athford in anticipation of an attack from Keldravia (p. 65). The kings of the Dwarf realms of Algarhaime and Noross in the Thurisian Mountains are personal friends of Crown Prince Wolfgang of Thurgandia, and he often spends time with the Dwarves, who gifted him with his enchanted helmet. (p. 314)

 

The Tornathian city-state of Hanoreth has strong trade alliances with Hordarsa and Zarkoreng, in the Ironheart Mountains, and the Great Ecclesiarch (theocratic ruler of Hanoreth) is frequently a guest of the kings of those Dwarf lands, and hosts them in return (p. 77). The human kingdom of Brabantia has an even closer alliance with the Dwarves of Korregdar, based on providing their craftsmen with Brabantian silver. The Dwarves have even gone to war to help defend Brabantia from aggression, and Dwarves from anywhere are generally warmly welcomed in Brabantia (pp. 139-40). [I have to wonder what will happen when Brabantian silver mines play out...]

 

OTOH some lands of the Dwarves have more complicated relations with Men, even approaching open hostility. The Dwarves of Delgalakh, Harkonn, and Rodathur are between the Sirrenic Empire and the Hargeshite Empire of Vashkhor, in the Skyclaw Mountains, and trade with both realms; but are concerned they may be forced to choose sides if the rivalry between the two empires of Men boils over into war. (p. 280) They may also have to contend with the frequent distrust, and in some cases fanatical hatred, by Vashkhorans toward races other than Men, no nations of whom have adopted Hargeshism. (p. 223)  OTOH Gunru and Tarkoll, in the mountain range called the Ayn Alach, are said to "keep to themselves at most times." (p. 108) In the case of Gunru that's understandable -- the map on p. 106 shows it bounded by the Chekuru Jungle and the Hargeshite Devastation. OTOH Tarkoll is proximate to both Vashkhor and Shar, suggesting something else may be behind their attitude.

 

Despite their friendship with the Prince of Thurgandia, the Dwarves of Algarhaime and Noross charge dearly to anyone for use of the secret passes they know through the Thurisian Mountains, and even blindfold travelers part of the way (p. 283). Garaktora does something similar with those who would pass through their territory in the Maha Torend mountain range, between Teretheim and Central Mitharia (p. 154 sidebar). Teretheim and Garaktora actually went to war over tarifs at the Teretha border city of Durgau, and although that was over four hundred years ago some Durgauans remain suspicious of all Dwarves. The impoverished kingdom of Nurenthia has little in the way of productive mines, because the Dwarves of Gabanaldazar control all the best mining in the region (p. 95).

 

As revealed on pp. 34 and 280, the Dwarven realm of Gasharth secretly aided the Lord of the Graven Spear, and thereby "descended into evil." They're currently strongly allied with Valicia, and while that might be considered a "good" relationship, the aspirations of conquest by the Valician king bode ill for the whole region. While Gasharth backing the Spearlord isn't widely known, many Dwarves are aware of it, which might lead to stigma for any Gasharthan encountering other Dwarves, whether or not they condone their nation's history and policies.

 

The contact and good relations between Dwarves and the Men of Brabantia,  Mezendria, Hanoreth, and Thurgandia could prompt certain Dwarves to sample more of Men's lands. OTOH others might have tragic histories through encounters with distrust, resentment, or hatred from Nurenthians, Teretha, or Vashkhorans. A Dwarf from Gunru or Tarkoll may grow frustrated with their nation's isolationism, or one from Korregdar with their dependence on Brabantian silver rather than exploring for new sources of their own.

 

The frequent contact with the Great Ecclesiarch of Hanoreth and his entourage could prompt a Dwarf from Zarkoreng or Hordarsa to convert to the High Church, even take up a crusade to promote and defend the Church. I can only speculate on how their fellow Dwarves might react to such a change of faith. The reaction could be even more extreme toward a Dwarf who became a Hargeshite -- it's debatable whether they would be accepted anywhere.

 

More Dwarven musings to come. 🧙‍♂️

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